Betrayal. Retribution. Redemption?
Six years ago, tough-as-nails military contractor Bobby Taggart met the woman of his dreams in war-torn Kabul—a sexy, whip-smart war correspondent who approached him at a local bar, took him to bed, made him fall in love…and then mysteriously disappeared. In her wake, the terrorist leader he’d been mining for valuable intel was assassinated—then Bobby discovered his phone had been bugged. And he’s pretty damn sure he’s been played for a fool.
Now, a covert security mission for the U.S. Embassy in Oman unexpectedly reunites him with Talia Levine, the woman who betrayed him and broke his heart. And there’s one more secret she hasn’t told him—one that will change his world. But as the heat of anger mixes with a still-simmering passion, dangerous forces close in, their sights set on Talia. Trust is the only way they will survive—but with their lives in the balance, can Bobby risk trusting her again?
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Kabul, Afghanistan, six years ago
Talia Levine sat at the bar in the dingy Mustafa Hotel lounge, wiping the dirty rim of her wineglass with her shirttail. Three nights in a row, she’d landed in this beat-up old bar, ordered a glass of cheap red, and hoped for the best.
The best never happened. It never did in Kabul.
She damn sure wouldn’t have picked the Mustafa as her watering hole, but the American military contractors stationed in the city had, staking out the bar for their own. She had staked out an American contractor. Just one out of all the bad boys doing the same thing she was—nursing a cheap drink and wilting in the heat.
Like her, the men were a long way from home. Unlike her, they were in the bar seeking like-minded company and a relatively quiet place to drink away the physical and emotional dirt from the day.
Many were bored. Some were lonely. But none were easy. Especially not her target.
She took a long swallow of her wine, gaze dead ahead on the hazy mirror behind the bar, studying his reflection through the drift of smoke skimming the room. His back was to the wall, his eyes on his whiskey as he absently flipped a playing card back and forth between his fingers and listened to the conversation at his table.
Even if she hadn’t read his file, she’d have known he’d once been Special Ops, just like the men with him. Men who were now private military contractors, most of them with the Fargis Group. To a man, they all wore battle-hardened looks and a clear air of danger.
This man in particular relayed a coiled readiness, an underlying situational awareness that told anyone within striking distance that he was no easy mark. No one was going to get the drop on him. Anyone coming after him was going to die. No hesitation. No regret.
She’d be playing with fire once she engaged him, and as she watched him expertly flipping that card, she knew she regretted volunteering for this op. But the endgame was what drove her, and she’d take the same chance again if it meant getting what she was after.
When he looked up and made eye contact, she gave him a slow blink before averting her gaze from the mirror to her almost empty glass. This part of the plan required patience. And finesse. She couldn’t appear too eager, so they’d been playing this little game of peekaboo for a while now. All she had to do was wait. If all worked as intended, she’d get what she wanted and get out within a week.
Overhead, a slow-moving fan barely stirred air heated by a long, miserable day and fouled by strong cigarette smoke. She lifted her heavy braid, arched her back, and used a napkin to wipe away the perspiration dampening her nape. The action was mostly for his benefit. He was watching her again.
For three nights straight, she’d kept her distance but subtly relayed her interest with quick, well-timed glances or the hint of a self-conscious smile, until he’d finally started playing along. It was clear he was attracted to her but hadn’t yet decided how things were going to roll out between them.
She tipped the last of her wine to her lips and let him think about it a little longer.
“Buy you another?”
For a big man, he moved fast. He’d slipped into her personal space without making a ripple in the air around them. And while she was irritated that she’d let him catch her off guard, she was also relieved they’d finally moved past square one.
She glanced up at him. “Sure. If you don’t make me drink alone.”
He caught the bartender’s attention, made a circle in the air with his finger signaling for another round, and eased down onto the bar stool beside her.
“So . . . come here often?” His smile surprised her as much as the corny line.
He knew this was her watering hole. Just as she’d known it was his before she’d ever set foot inside. His, along with all the other mercs, spooks, and journalists who called it their home away from home.
“Can’t seem to stay away.” Her smile said, What’s a girl to do? “Must be the homey atmosphere.”
He grunted and made a cursory glance around the room—smoke-stained yellow walls, cracked marble floors, years of abuse and wear. “Yeah. Or the cheap booze. Any port in a storm, right?”
“What about you?” She nodded her thanks to the bartender when he slid a fresh glass of wine in front of her and a whiskey in front of her new friend.
“When the pickings are slim, you take what you can get.” He smiled again. Surprised her again. He had the look of a hard man, and everything she knew of his background said that he was. Yet when he smiled, there was nothing hard about him.
“Are we still talking about the hotel?” she asked, reacting to that smile.
He laughed. “Well, we’re not talking about you, ma’am. You class up the place.”
“Ma’am?” Whether it was an old-fashioned endearment or a holdover from his Army days, it charmed her more than it should have.
“Best I could do since I don’t know your name. Mine’s Taggart.”
Robert Andrew Taggart, to be exact. Known to his coworkers as Bobby or Boom Boom. It was the boom she had to remember to be careful of. He’d been Special Forces, but a mission had gone south a few years ago, and he and two of his fellow team members got tagged for the screwup. All three were given less-than-honorable discharges. Bitter and with no place to go, he’d signed on for military contract work and ended up back in Afghanistan.
His military history and his fall from grace might work for her. That and something as inherently basic as the difference in their chromosomes. She needed information. He had it. She’d do whatever she had to do to get it.
“Talia Levine.” She extended her hand.
His palm was warm and rough, and she held on long enough so he’d understand she had something more in mind than drinking together.
“You’re American, right?”
Another engaging grin. “What gave it away?”
She pushed out a flirty laugh. “Only everything about you.”
“Yeah, I need to work on that.” He leaned a little closer. “What about you? Can’t place the accent.”
“I was hoping I didn’t have one.” She smiled again. “I’m from D.C., actually. But of late, Israel, London, Baghdad . . . anywhere my assignments take me. War correspondent,” she clarified when he cocked a brow. It wasn’t a lie, but it wasn’t what had brought her to Kabul. He was.
“Of course. Why else would a beautiful woman spend time in a sweatbox like this unless she was forced to?”
“Not forced,” she corrected. “I volunteered for this assignment.”
He sipped his whiskey, studying her face in a way that made her feel like a mouse in a trap when she was supposed to be doing the trapping. “So you’re one of those.”
She crinkled her brow. “One of those?”
“An ‘all for the sake of her career’ woman. Always ready to take reckless chances to get your story.”
“Now, how would you know if I was reckless?”
“Not to point out the obvious, but you’re in Kabul in the middle of a war zone. And you’re coming on to a stranger in a bar.”
“Wow.” She feigned insult. “That’s harsh.”
“That’s life,” he said with a shrug. “No insult intended. Maybe a little wishful thinking, though. You were coming on to me, right?”
She sipped her wine, aware of his gaze on her face. “I was still deciding.”
He chuckled. “And now?”
“And now I think I need to know more about you.”
He lifted a hand. “Me? I’m an open book.”
“Of course you are,” she said, letting him know he wasn’t fooling her.
He was good at this game. Just not as good as she was.
“Are you really any different from me in the reckless department?” she asked, now that the door was open. “You were military, right? I’m guessing Spec Ops. Most likely served more than one deployment in the hot zones. That would have been enough for most men, yet now you’re a civilian contractor.”
She wasn’t stating anything that wasn’t general knowledge around Kabul. The bulk of the Americans who ended up here had military backgrounds, and most were employed by civilian contractors.
“Seems to me that in the reckless-chances department, you’re way ahead of me.”
“So I guess it’s settled. We’re both a little crazy.” He lifted his glass in salute.
She did the same. “But you can’t say it’s not exciting.”
Another smile from the man who kept surprising her. “Yeah. This is definitely my idea of excitement. Watching the paint peel off the walls of this run-down bar.”
She toyed with the stem of her wineglass, then tilted him a measured look. “You’re not watching the paint peel now, are you?”
He wasn’t stupid. And he wasn’t slow. She’d just let him know she’d made her decision about him, and he turned that charming grin on her again. “No, ma’am. I certainly am not.”
According to his file, he was a man who kept to himself, and if he fit in anywhere, it was with men just like himself. Judging by his pleased look, however, that wasn’t altogether true. He wanted her company now. Which was exactly what she’d been counting on—but for an entirely different reason.
This was all business on her part. She’d taken an oath, and she’d do what was expected of her. Yet a surprising awareness arced between them, and for a moment, she let herself see the man, not the assignment.
Square-jawed, hard-edged, and tough as leather, his sandy-brown hair in a military cut. Still had the look of the Bronx street brawler he’d been in his teens.
And he had the most watchful green eyes.
He wore rugged and muscular like a tailored suit, and the truth was, he was very easy to look at. Especially when he smiled. When he smiled, it was oh-so-easy to romanticize and even picture him in another era. An adventurer, crossing the rough Atlantic on a tall-masted ship, braving the danger and uncertainty of the rough passage, and finally landing at Ellis Island with his fellow German, French, or Irish immigrants.
An electric silence had stretched out between them before she managed to fall back into her role. She glanced up at him. “Just so you know, I don’t make a habit of doing this.”
His gaze was intense but not judgmental. “So why me? And why now?”
She looked away, and when she looked back at him, tears pooled in her eyes. All she had to do was recall today’s horrible memory to rouse them. “Why you? Because you look about as lonely as I feel. Why now? I don’t know. Maybe . . . maybe because life—this life—is risky, and today I narrowly escaped with mine. Maybe because today I need human contact.”
“To remind you that you’re human?” His tone suggested he might need that reminder as well. And his eyes had warmed just enough to tell her she’d struck a chord—struck it hard enough that she might have felt a twinge of guilt for exploiting it if this mission weren’t so crucial.
“To remind me that humanity isn’t dead . . . even in the thick of this inhumane war.”
He studied her face and then his whiskey before knocking the rest of it down. Then he stood, dug into his hip pocket for his wallet, and tossed some cash onto the bar. “My room or yours?”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The first in this series that I have read. I will definitely be reading the others. I immediately got caught up in the story - and loved the chemistry between Talia and Bobby.
Bobby "Boom Boom" Taggart, military contractor, meets a woman in a bar in Kabul, which is war-torn. She says she's a war correspondent, he's suspicious of her but falls in love after spending only a week with her. She suddenly disappears and at the same time a terrorist that Bobby has been aiming for is assassinated. Bobby discovers that his phone has been bugged, he puts two and two together and realizes he's been played and betrayed. Six years later, Bobby is working a security mission for the U.S. Embassy in Oman when he suddenly hears her voice, the woman he's hated for 6 long years, Talia Levine, the one woman who broke his heart and betrayed him. The Embassy is bombed, Bobby and Talia survive and she has a secret that she's been keeping and she knows she must tell him, but it will change his life. She has a son with Bobby, he has been kidnapped. Danger closes in and Bobby's anger is mixed up with passion, they must work together and trust each other to make sure all lives are saved.
Awesome! Taking Fire by Cindy Gerard is a phenomenal read. Talia and Bobby's story was a maze of betrayal, sass, humor, drama, revenge, action and sizzle. This well written book had it all. The characters are fantastic. I enjoyed Taking Fire from cover to cover and look forward to reading more from Cindy Gerard soon. Taking Fire is book 4 in the One-Eyed Jacks Series, but can be read as a standalone. This is a complete book, not a cliff-hanger. I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes.
J: This is truly a five star all the way! It has everything a really good romantic suspense should have, and I connected instantly with the characters. Of course it didn't hurt that I have already read and loved the other books in this series, and have been waiting for this one for months. But it was well worth the wait and certainly did not disappoint.
4.5 Stars! Cindy Gerard does not disappoint! High stakes and tender passion go hand in hand in this exciting installment of the One-Eyed Jacks. My favorite thing about Ms. Gerard’s books is her ability to write such tough but sensitive characters and in a lineup of impressive heroines, Talia is special - both a fierce warrior and a vulnerable woman hungry for an emotional connection, two seemingly incompatible sides that make her such a great character. Six years ago, Talia Levine met the man of her dreams in war-torn Afghanistan, only she was on a mission and he was her target. Her mission was a success, but she never expected to fall in love and her life was changed forever by that mission. Now she is reunited with the man she betrayed and she needs his help, but the secret she has kept all this time could do even more damage to their already difficult relationship. Bobby Taggart has lived with his guilt about losing a valuable intelligence asset because he let his hormones do the talking and fell into bed with a spy and he would prefer to forget that it was more than just sex. However, he doesn't have that luxury anymore because for the first time in six years, he's face to face with the woman who played him and the circumstances are less than ideal. Anyone who has read Ms. Gerard's books knows to expect a thrilling, action-filled ride as well as sizzling passion with every book, but TAKING FIRE does even better by blending fast-paced action seamlessly with intense emotions - betrayal, regret, love, hope, fear, desire and so on. Readers are sure to experience a gamut of emotions. Both Talia and Bobby just grabbed hold of my heart and wouldn't let go. In spite of how deep her betrayal was I couldn't hate Talia for any of her actions and I love how fearless and honest she was when she opened herself up to Bobby even though the chance of being rejected was high. Bobby is such a sweetheart. He's the hardened special operator with a gooey soft heart who can't hold on to his hurt feelings in the face of unconditional love. I love everything about this book, especially how the author took the time to wrap up their happy ending satisfactorily. Lovers of romantic suspense will love TAKING FIRE and even newcomers to the genre are sure to get a thrill from reading it. Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
TAKING FIRE is the fourth installment in Cindy Gerard’s contemporary, adult ONE EYED JACKS military, romantic suspense series focusing on a group of men of the Special Forces team known as One Eyed Jacks. This is military contractor Bobby Taggart, and war correspondent Talia Levine’s story line. ONE EYED JACKS is a spin off from Cindy’s best selling BLACK OPS INC series. TAKING FIRE can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty. Told from several third person points of view TAKING FIRE focuses on the rebuilding of a relationship between Bobby Taggart and Talia Levine. Six years earlier, while on assignment in the Middle East, Bobby and Talia had a week long affair that ended when an assassination destroyed months of work for Bobby and his team in Kabul, Afghanistan, leaving Bobby wondering where everything went wrong. Enter Talia Levine-the woman whose mission was to seek out Bobby Taggart in the Middle East, and the woman who would, once again, enter his life six years later at the US Embassy in Oman. What ensues is the search for a kidnapped child, and the truth about what happened years before. Cindy Gerard combines the past with the present to reveal the history between Talia and Bobby, and secrets Talia has kept from the man with whom she had fallen in love. As Bobby’s team searches for the missing child, the Special Forces soldiers begin to unravel the truth about his relationship with Talia Levine. Talia is a strong, self-contained woman but a woman trained to do her job. Bobby is a man who fell for the wrong woman, and in doing so, placed a mission in danger, and his future in the hands of a woman he barely knows. Some of the previous story line and Black Ops Inc couples and characters plays secondary and supporting roles including Ronda and Jamie (Running Blind 3),Joe Green and Stephanie Tompkins from BOI . The world building follows the Special Forces soldiers on their mission in the Middle East, and their friendship and rivalries back home. TAKING FIRE is a story of second chances; a fast paced, intriguing, and sensational tale about letting go of the past, and looking forward to the future. The premise is impassioned; the characters are intelligent, dynamic, and energetic; the romance is fated by circumstance and time. Cindy Gerard pulls the reader into a story of romance and love; forgiveness and a look to the future; friendships and family. TAKING FIRE is a wonderful and moving installment in Cindy Gerard’s ONE EYED JACKS military, romantic suspense series.
Frequently when authors have written a series, the stories tend to get repeated, boring, etc. Not so with Ms Gerard’s One-Eye Jacks Books. Each gets better and better, and Taking Fire is no exception. Our hero is BobbyTaggart, and our heroine Masada agent Talia Levine. They met in Kabul while they were on their respective assignments. She under a false identity and he was working as an operative. Deceit follows and Talia disappears. Bobby has not forgiven her . Six years later they meet again. I will let others tell the storyline. But this book is much more than a story about these two individuals. It’s a story about meeting under the influence of war, false identities, betrayal, redemption and overcoming it all. Can trust and love follow? Enjoy the ride, you will not regret it.
This is one great read!! If you love romantic suspense with a military theme, then this is a book for you. As she is one of my favorite authors, I have read many of Cindy Gerard's books and have loved every one of them. You can't go wrong with a story of strong men and women that are kick-a** and have a great camaraderie. The team coming in is such a great addition to each book, showing the closeness of every member and you feel as if you have missed nothing. Each book is a stand-alone in itself. Bobby and Talia are on such an emotional merry-go-round and trying to stay alive as well as reconcile their past. Talia and Bobby's story was fast paced and heartbreaking at times, that I read it in one sitting. This is a highly recommended read! **I received an ARC copy of Taking Fire from NetGalley and Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books, only asking for an honest review**
Love should make forgiveness easy shouldn’t it? Taking Fire is a military suspense romance with a second chance and secret baby twist. But through it all you are rooting for Bobby and Talia to get together. This book is filled with action, adventure, betrayal and love. It is one heck of a ride. Though this is part of a series it can be read standalone just fine. I will be going back to read the ones I missed though. Complimentary copy provided by author/publisher for an honest review.
This was a great book . ... loved it!